Hospitality businesses warn of staff shortages as Fringe kicks off

Businesses in Edinburgh welcomed the return of the Fringe, but urged the public to be kind to service staff.

Edinburgh hospitality businesses warn of staff shortages as Fringe Festival kicks off iStock

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has kicked off in full for the first time since 2019.

Industry leaders say they’re excited for footfall to return to pre-pandemic levels this month, but are concerned about staff shortages in the sector.

“I think staffing for everybody is an issue – it’s a real challenge,” said Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

“The Fringe is no exception. Staffing shortages we’ll really have to look at and address post this year’s festival.”

Shona says it’ll be important to look at how to retain young people in the industry and attract them by “providing the training, the support and the fair wages”.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

However, it’s not just the Fringe experiencing staffing shortages – Signature Pub Group business development director Louise Maclean says they’ve lost so many workers because of Brexit that they’re “not seeing the influx of staff that we used to”.

“I think Brexit has played a part in this, I can see we don’t have as many Europeans working in the city, and industry, that we used to – we miss them,” Louise said.

Copper Blossom, part of Signature Pub Group

Copper Blossom, a bar within the group, said due to staffing shortages they won’t be operating their kitchen seven days a week.

A spokesperson said: “We are here and we can operate, but it’s so frustrating not being able to open seven days a week, obviously this means we’ll have a loss of takings across the month”

A spokesperson from the UK Government said Brexit has given the UK more chance to invest in the UK’s domestic workforce, but the hospitality sector can hire international workers under a new points-based immigration system “if they meet the required English language and salary thresholds and are sponsored by a registered Home Office sponsor.”

Louise Maclean, Signature Pub Group business development director

Cost of Living

While staffing is a concern for the industry, Louise said the cost of living crisis is starting to have an impact too.

“We’ve seen a drop in spend per head, but we’re also seeing less visits to hospitality from customers. It’s what we saw in 2008 as well. People went out less, and so instead of going out twice a week and spending £20 each night – people are instead going out once and spending £30”.

Shona McCarthy recognises the cost of living’s impact on people’s budget for the Fringe this year but added: “Whether you’ve got no budget, low budget or lots of budget you can come see the street performers, walk the Royal Mile, see the Free Fringe – and many of the venues have been offering cheaper tickets.”

She added it’s been important for them to keep the Fringe affordable and ticket sales remain strong, with half a million tickets already sold by August 3.

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